Tyler Flowers has gone a full week or more without seeing any game action plenty of times this season. For someone who has played in over 100 games every year since 2007, it hasn't been an easy transition. But that's the life of a backup catcher, especially one playing behind one of baseball's most durable backstops in A.J. Pierzynski.
"I take early batting practice every chance I can," Flowers explained after doing just that prior to Tuesday's game. "Whenever I can get a chance to swing, I need to do it since I'm not usually in the games too often. I have to take every chance for people to see me, see what I'm doing and see anything glaring that's going to make it more challenging for me to have success."
Flowers owns a .255 on-base percentage in 51 plate appearances this season, hitting a pair of solo home runs to account for his only RBIs. He has big power, which is frequently on display during batting practice as he peppers the empty left-field stands.
But batting practice isn't enough. Tuesday marks the 19th time Flowers has appeared in a game this season, and that lack of action has led Flowers to try plenty of different routes to working on his approach.
"It's a challenge not seeing live pitching more than once or twice a week," Flowers said. "I gotta find a way to duplicate it as close as I can to keep everything sharp."
That's led to plenty of early batting practice sessions, along with live batting practice with breaking balls and changeups. Lately, Flowers says he's been hitting off a pitching machine to simulate game-speed fastballs.
Going the pitching machine route is something Flowers picked up from Ramon Castro, who backed up A.J. Pierzynski from 2009 through 2011. During Pierzynski's tenure, Castro was statistically the best backup catcher the Sox had, hitting 16 home runs with a .758 OPS in 91 games.
"He really look time last year to show me what he does," Flowers said of Castro. "He was a pretty successful backup for a number of years. Being an older guy, me being a younger guy, it's not going to hurt me to listen to him and take in whatever he has to say."
Castro played parts of 13 seasons in the majors and only appeared in more than 60 games once. Flowers has previously said he doesn't envision himself as a career backup. But, for now, he's trying to do the best in the role he has and isn't thinking about Pierzynski's contract being up at the end of this season, potentially creating an opening behind the plate.
"Just taking the job I have right now and try to make the most of it," Flowers responded when asked about 2013. "Every time I get out there, do the best I can and something will open up at some point."